Floss before or after brushing? Which Is Better?

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This age-old question has puzzled dental hygiene enthusiasts for years. Should you floss before or after brushing? 

The answer may seem straightforward, but there are several factors to consider when deciding the best time to floss. In this guide, we’ll explore the pros and cons of flossing before or after brushing, the proper order of dental hygiene, and other essential factors to keep your teeth and gums healthy. 

We’ll also examine alternatives to traditional flossing methods and address common concerns about flossing habits. Let’s get started!

Should You Floss Before or After Brushing?

Some people believe flossing before brushing is the ideal way to floss because it allows for a more thorough cleaning. 

At the same time, others argue that flossing after brushing removes any remaining debris from between the teeth. 

Ultimately, the best time to floss depends on personal preference and the unique needs of your oral health. Let’s go over some pros and cons to both.

Flossing Before Brushing: The Benefits

There are several reasons why flossing before brushing may be more beneficial for your dental health.

  1. Flossing before brushing can help remove plaque and food particles between your teeth, allowing your toothpaste to reach those hard-to-reach areas more effectively. This can lead to a more thorough cleaning and better overall oral health.
  1. Flossing first can stimulate your gums, improving circulation and making them more receptive to the fluoride found in toothpaste. This increased blood flow can help strengthen and protect your gums from gum disease.

Flossing After Brushing: The Benefits

On the other hand, flossing after brushing has its own set of advantages.

  1. Brushing first can also help distribute toothpaste and its beneficial ingredients, such as fluoride, throughout your mouth. Flossing after brushing can then help to push these ingredients further between your teeth, providing even more protection against cavities and gum disease.
  1. Some people find it easier to remember to floss after brushing, as it serves as a natural conclusion to their oral hygiene routine. Not flossing at all is way worse than worrying about the perfect timing, so if you are more comfortable with flossing afterward, then go with that option.

Why is it Better to Floss Before Brushing?

There are several reasons why flossing before brushing may be more beneficial for your dental health. 

The main benefit is that flossing first can help remove plaque and food particles between your teeth, allowing your toothpaste to reach those hard-to-reach areas more effectively. Some floss also comes embedded with fluoride which helps get fluoride in between the teeth more effectively. 

This increases fluoride retention overall. Additionally, flossing before brushing can help loosen larger particles from your teeth and allow your toothbrush to reach those harder-to-reach areas because its no longer obstructed by debris.

What is the Proper Order for Brushing, Flossing, and Rinsing?

While the ideal order for dental hygiene can vary based on personal preference, many dental professionals recommend the following sequence:

  1. Floss your teeth to remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth and along the gumline. This initial step prepares your teeth for more effective brushing by clearing away larger particles that could prevent your toothbrush from getting the job done.
  1. Brush your teeth using toothpaste to clean your teeth and gums, removing any remaining debris. Be sure to brush for at least two minutes, using a circular motion and reaching all surfaces of your teeth, including the fronts, backs, and chewing surfaces.
  1. Rinse your mouth with water or a mouthwash to help wash away any lingering bacteria or particles. Using a mouthwash with fluoride can provide additional protection against cavities and gum disease, while an antibacterial mouthwash can help reduce plaque buildup and prevent bad breath.

Is it Better to Floss at Night or in the Morning?

Deciding when to floss really comes down to your personal preference and lifestyle.

Flossing at night can be advantageous because it helps remove any food particles accumulated throughout the day, preventing bacteria from feeding on them overnight. This can reduce the risk of developing cavities and gum disease. 

Additionally, flossing before bedtime allows your mouth to be as clean as possible during sleep when saliva production decreases, and bacteria can thrive.

On the other hand, flossing in the morning can help you feel refreshed and start your day with a clean mouth. If you tend to snack or drink sugary beverages in the evening, flossing in the evening may be more beneficial for your dental health. 

Flossing in the morning can also help you establish a consistent oral hygiene routine, as it’s often easier to incorporate flossing into your daily getting-ready ritual.

Ultimately, the best time to floss is when you’re most likely to consistently incorporate it into your daily routine, whether that’s in the morning, at night, or even during a break in the middle of your day.

How Many Times Should You Floss?

Most dental professionals recommend flossing at least once per day to maintain optimal oral health. 

Flossing daily can help prevent the buildup of plaque between your teeth and along the gum line, reducing the risk of cavities, gum disease and even a receding gum line. 

If you’re prone to gum disease or have a history of dental issues, your dentist may recommend flossing more frequently to better protect your oral health.

Is it OK to Miss a Day of Flossing?

Missing a day of flossing isn’t the end of the world. Maintaining a consistent routine and getting back on track as soon as possible is more important. 

If you miss a day, floss thoroughly the next day to remove any accumulated plaque and food particles. 

Consistency is key in maintaining a healthy mouth, so strive to make flossing a non-negotiable part of your daily routine.

The Best Flossing Alternatives

If traditional dental floss isn’t your favorite method of cleaning between your teeth, there are several alternatives to consider:

Interdental brushes 

These tiny brushes are designed to fit between your teeth and can effectively remove plaque and food particles. They come in various sizes to accommodate different spaces between teeth and are especially useful for those with braces or dental bridges.

Water flossers

Also known as oral irrigators, water flossers use a high-pressure stream of water to clean between your teeth and along the gumline. They can be a great option for those who have difficulty using traditional dental floss or who prefer a more high-tech approach to oral hygiene.

Putting mouthwash instead of water in the oral irrigator is also helpful to maintain healthy gums. 

Soft picks:

Made from flexible rubber or silicone, soft picks are designed to gently clean between your teeth without causing irritation. They can be an excellent option for those with sensitive gums or tight spaces between teeth.

Pre-threaded flossers

These disposable flossing tools come with a small segment of floss already threaded between two plastic prongs. Pre-threaded flossers can be particularly helpful for people with limited dexterity, children or those who have difficulty threading floss through tight spaces.

Regardless of your chosen method, cleaning between your teeth regularly to maintain optimal oral health is essential.

Overcoming Common Flossing Challenges

While flossing is a crucial component of a healthy oral hygiene routine, many people encounter obstacles that can make flossing difficult. Here are some common challenges and tips for overcoming them:

  • Bleeding gums: If your gums bleed when you floss, it could be a sign of gum inflammation or early gum disease. Be gentle when flossing, and try using a soft, waxed floss or a floss alternative like a water flosser. Consult your dentist if the bleeding persists. This also might be due to incorrect technique and you should make sure not to use a sawing motion. 
  • Difficulty reaching back teeth: Reaching your back teeth can be challenging, especially if you have a small mouth or a strong gag reflex. Floss holders or pre-threaded flossers can make it easier to access hard-to-reach areas.
  • Floss shredding or breaking: If your floss frequently breaks or shreds between your teeth, try using a waxed or PTFE (Teflon) floss, which is more resistant to shredding. Alternatively, interdental brushes or soft picks might be a better option for you.
  • Limited dexterity: People with arthritis or other conditions that limit hand dexterity may struggle with traditional flossing. In this case, floss holders, pre-threaded flossers, or water flossers can make the process more manageable.


While flossing before you brush you teeth is considered ideal, In the end, the debate over whether to floss before or after brushing comes down to personal preference and what you actually end up sticking too. 

The most important thing is to maintain a consistent oral hygiene routine, including flossing at least once daily and brushing your teeth twice daily.

If you’re unsure about the best time to floss or which flossing method is right for you, consult with your dentist or dental hygienist for personalized advice. 

Remember, dental health is an essential aspect of your overall well-being, and developing good oral hygiene habits can have a lasting impact on your quality of life. 

By consistently flossing, you’ll be well on your way to a bright, healthy smile.

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Author and Medical Reviewer

Dr. Sharna is a Pediatric Dentist from Marlboro, NJ. With a Doctorate in Dental Medicine, she graduated at the top of her class and pursued specialized training in Pediatric Dentistry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center. Dr. Sharna is a Board Certified Pediatric Dentist, dedicated to providing exceptional care to children while ensuring their dental visits are enjoyable.

Editorial Director

Marcus Ramsey has been a professional writer for over seven years. He has talked about and produced content for industries like Dentistry, Healthcare, and more.

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